Last weekend, I headed to the sun-drenched beaches of Santa Monica for Pacsun’s Summer Solstice Beach Ballyhoo for music (Ra Ra Riot! Neon Trees!), hot skater boys (Tony Hawk!), and all the glory that is an open bar. But the highlight of the weekend was undoubtedly a performance by the infectiously fun twosome Matt & Kim. Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino met while attending Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute in 2004, and have since put out two albums that evoke summers in their neighborhood—running through sprinklers in the park by day and jumping up and down in dark bars by night, holding a cheap beer, while the walls around you drip with condensation. Their performances, like their music, are tirelessly upbeat. If you can get through a song without at least a head bob and a foot tap, it’s probably time for a vacation. During their Ballyhoo set, Kim actually sang while being held upright, crowd-surfing. Yeah, it was pretty fantastic. I had a chance to catch up with the band at their hotel to talk about their inspirations, Erykah Badu ganking their style, and why they’re so adorable. OK, I didn’t have a chance to address the last part, but they really are awfully cute.
Where do you guys look for inspiration for your music and lyrics?
Kim: Lyrically, we find inspiration both at home and on the road.
Matt: I just woke up and haven’t brushed my teeth because I left my toothbrush in the car, so excuse me if I have morning breath. That’s on the record. But, I think we’re inspired by creative competition—the zen of art school competition. If other people are doing cool s**t, then we want to do cool s**t. I don’t know, I think that’s part of what can be exciting.
When did you realize you guys were musical soul mates?
Kim: Has that been realized? [Laughs.]
Matt: I think we realized that we worked well together before we realized we were going to be musical together. It’s deeper than just music, it’s whatever the hell—
Kim: In any band, if you can hang out with someone 25 hours a day and not want to kill them, then it’s gonna work out.
Matt: Something’s happening right.
How do you guys stay so upbeat? There isn’t a single picture where one of you isn’t totally beaming!
Matt: We get to do what we love, which is enough for anybody to be upbeat. A lot of people are way too concerned about not embarrassing themselves, that they don’t let anything like that show … like any personality. All we do is embarrass ourselves all day long.
Kim: I played the whole show yesterday with my fly down.
Matt: She did. She knew though, going in, that it was broken, but they were her show pants.
How do you feel about Erykah Badu doing an homage to your MTV Video Music Awards Breakthrough Video-winning “Lessons Learned” with her “Window Seat” music video?
Kim: It was crazy. It’s funny, I mean, we get a call from her but we didn’t pick up because we didn’t know the number. And then there’s this text, and it just says, “Kim, it’s Badu, call me.” And I was like, “Who the f**k is Badu?” I don’t talk on the phone, so Matt called her back.
Matt: Yeah, we talked. It was sort of mixed feelings in the sense that I was totally flattered that this musician I really liked was going to do this idea that I came up with and that we had done. Then I thought about it and was like, “Well, that’s kind of BS.” It was a good idea. And if she did it—well, she did do it—it was guaranteed that millions of people would watch it. I mean, it would be really easy for her to watch any video that won break-out video at the VMAs and if you do the same video, people are gonna watch it. But then I thought about it a little longer and I realized she wasn’t just doing it for shock value and there was more stuff behind it … I don’t know, it ended up positive and I was really happy she gave us a credit in the beginning, which a lot of people wouldn’t have done. And it’s only helped us. People that otherwise wouldn’t have found us, found us.
Are you guys working on another album now?
Kim: It’s a never-ending process. We’ve been recording for two months. We’re not done yet and we had shows scheduled, so it’s kind of like, come out, do some shows, go home, work on it some more. Almost done.
Matt: Hopefully. We’ll see!
Matt: And hopefully that will be a great kid. Seems like a good thing to say on Father’s Day [which fell on the day the interview was conducted].
What’s your favorite game to play when you’re in your tour van?
Matt: For some reason, we have a bizarre competition of who can get into each state first.
Kim: Like one of us will reach over the dashboard. But it’s probably not safe at all to play.
Matt: Like you’ll be driving and I’m all [launches arms in the air]. It’s kind of different now with different forms of transportation. We’re flying most of the time now.
Kim: I like to think that I always win because you’re sleeping on the planes.
Matt: There you go.
What’s your style inspiration?
Matt: All black, all the time. I don’t think we think about it that much but I am trying to do white shoes, which I am far too irresponsible to wear. They are very dirty. I realized that I’m still wearing the same sort of stuff that I wore when I was 16 years old.
Kim: So we’ll call it old-school!